The Palestinian Authority (PA) is the body which governs and administers Palestinian areas in the West Bank. It was established as a result of the 1993 Oslo Agreement, and came into being in 1994, overseeing Palestinian population centers in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. However since the 2007 Hamas takeover, the PA does not govern the Gaza Strip. The PA President effectively serves as the representative of the Palestinian people in the international community, and represents the Palestinians in negotiations with the State of Israel.
Long-time PLO chairman Yasir Arafat was the first “Rais” or President of the Palestinian Authority until his death in 2004. He was succeeded by Mahmoud Abbas, who is widely known by his nom de guerre, Abu Mazen.
According to the Oslo Accords, the PA was intended to be an interim structure that would be succeeded by an independent Palestinian government following a final peace agreement with Israel.